Frequently Asked Questions About Volunteering

“Sew” you want to be a volunteer ... WONDERFUL! We thank you!

I would like to make a monetary donation. Do you take cash?

No, we prefer checks. Checks should be made payable to ConKerr Cancer.

Why not donate 'online':  It's easy and secure.


Where do I send the check made out to ConKerr Cancer?

If you know your Regional Coordinator (geographical locations), you can give to the Coordinator and they will forward to the Home Office. Or...

Mail directly to:
ConKerr Cancer Organization
c/o Cheryl Ferraioli
295 E. Swedesford Road #396 
Wayne, PA 19087

Sadly, I don’t sew, but I DO have many other talents! What can I do to ‘help’?

Yes, you are correct! Everyone has a talent that is needed to help with the pillowcases! Fabric needs to be cut, fabric needs to be washed, pillowcases need to be ironed, pillowcases need to be picked up from drop-off sites, fund raising is important to raise monies to purchase additional fabric, thread, and supplies. Reach out to your Regional Coordinator to see what ‘talents’ are needed in your specific geography.

Regional Directory of chapters by state

What are some ‘ideas’ for donations, other than fabric?

  • Unscented detergent
  • Ziploc plastic bags: 1 quart size (each pillowcase smile is delivered in its own Ziploc bag)
  • Monetary donations are also welcomed!  It currently costs about $11.00 to make a pillowcase 'smile'.  Donations can easily be made online:

What kind of fabric can I use to sew pillowcases?

Fabric should be 100% cotton (no polyester). Remember: fun / novelty prints! Check with local coordinator for hospital requirements as they may differ from hospital to hospital. Some hospitals do not accept flannel (see below).

Caution:  when using RED, always pre-wash so the red does not bleed into any contrasting fabric being used on the pillowcase.  When using red, always, always pre-wash!

And more when it comes to the use of flannel and other guidelines:

Here are a few guidelines and suggestions based on past experience. We ask that the pillowcases be bright, fun cotton prints. We are always in need of teenage boys and girls. Please, no glitter and no skulls.

Flannel is okay, but if you are purchasing from JoAnn’s be very careful. We find that the prints wash well but the solid flannel tends to look worn after 2 washings and the red solid flannel runs.  The flannel is not quite as wide so make sure the “JoAnn’s selvedge” does not appear on the outside.  If using flannel we would suggest prewashing.

If you are using the same quality of fabric there is no need to prewash but we ask that after they are sewn they are washed in unscented detergent, ironed and placed in a quart or gallon ziplock bag. Please make sure all pins are removed and the pillowcases are sewn properly. If sewing with inexperienced sewers, you will get the best result if you have an experienced sewer at each machine assisting those less skilled.  

We are very conscious of the children’s compromised immune systems so the person who washes and bags the pillowcases should be healthy and work on a “clean” surface. If the pillowcases were pre-washed they still need to be washed after they are sewn.

It sounds more complicated than it really is ...Happy Sewing!


What pattern and dimensions should I use to sew pillowcases?

Hospitals use standard size pillows for their patients (20 x 26 inches).  

Choose cheery and colorful fabric with kid-friendly designs when purchasing fabric:

1/3 yard of fabric for border  (cut into a strip: 10 ½ inches by 40 ½ inches)

3/4 yard of fabric for the 'case' (cut case:  26 ½ inches by 40 ½ inches)

Finished size:

  • Approximate size is 20”x 31”  (to fit a standard size pillow)
  • Some will vary slightly but that’s ok.  Keep it as close to 20 x 31 as possible.  It is not necessary to make it any larger than that. 

To ensure a well finished pillowcase, follow our ‘hot dog’ method of sewing the cases.

Download PDF instructions

How do I wash the pillowcases?

Most chapters suggest the use of an unscented detergent; no fabric softener; cold water setting n the washer. Tampa hospitals require the pillowcases to be washed in vinegar and water. Dry the case; no scented dryer sheets. Iron pillowcase and place in a Ziploc plastic bag.  

Please be sure the environment is 'smoke free' when washing/ironing/bagging ... thank you!

Can I deliver the pillowcases myself?

No, unfortunately. The hospitals each have standards we must follow, especially due to the children’s low immunity while under treatment. Additionally, many facilities have limited storage and we deliver based on available space.

Is it okay to put a note in the pillowcase?

Yes, a personal note may be inserted (no pins) into the plastic Ziploc bag. Notes cannot be of a religious nature.

Do you accept seasonal pillowcases?

Yes! The children love them; however, they cannot be of a religious nature or theme. In fact, during Halloween, we have seen the children use their ConKerr pillowcases as Trick or Treat bags – it’s the best!

Can I receive a tax credit for sewing pillowcases?

Absolutely! Provide your Regional Coordinator with your name, mailing address and number of pillowcases sewn and we will provide a letter, on ConKerr Cancer letterhead stating your ‘donation’. We are a charitable, 501(c)3 organization.  Requests for 2014 Tax Donation Letters are no longer being accepted.  As of January 15th we closed our books for 2014.   Thank You for all the smiles ... our Volunteers are "SEW" amazing!

How many pillowcases (smiles) does it take to make ‘a mile’ of smiles??

One mile of pillowcases equals 2,112 pillowcase smiles.

My school, My scout troop, My church group, My youth group, etc want to HOST a sewing event. HOW and what do we do to get this going?

ConKerr Cancer used to sew at schools, churches, etc., but it has become impossible for us to keep up with the requests for sewing events. Our volunteers and resources were simply stretched too thin. However, we can help, by providing you some general guidelines to get you started organizing one for your local organization. See the following pages for general guidelines to organize and deliver a ‘youth’ event.

Making it FUN

Here’s what we’ve learned about organizing a youth event: General Guidelines for a ‘youth’ event:

Depending on how many kids you have you'll want several sewing machines set up and ready to go. There must be an experienced sewer at each machine who knows how to make a pillowcase; otherwise you'll get some pretty interesting results! Moms and Dads who know how to sew will learn quickly and should make one or two cases to practice before they help the kids. It is also great to have ‘samples’ of completed pillowcases for the kids to see.

Use 100% cotton novelty fabric: fun, cheerful prints. Stay away from ‘older/quilty’ prints which the young patients do not care for. They are sick and they want something to cheer them up! How much fabric? You need 3/4 yard fabric for the body and 1/3 yard for the border. Both the body and border should coordinate well.

Instructions on how to sew a pillowcase can be downloaded here

Sewing instructions are provided, along with our "hot dog" method that is a little more involved but makes a nicely finished pillowcase. Both instructions are on our website and you can print from there.

Students can either bring in their own fabric (stress the importance of purchasing just the right fabric for sick kids) or someone can buy all the fabric. Our experience: purchasing for the event works best, vs. individuals bringing their own.

It is best to have all fabric cut and ready to sew at the start of event...

Supplies needed:

TABLES for sewing machines, pinning, cutting, displaying fabric if necessary. Set up tables near outlets and use extension cords as needed.

SEWING MACHINES as needed. Don't forget the needles and thread! Hint: light gray thread works well with all fabrics (no need to change threads based on fabrics).

CUTTING SUPPLIES include a large cutting mat, a rotary cutter, and ruler. A few of each might be necessary.

TWO CHAIRS at each sewing machine.

A PINCUSHION AND SCISSORS will go at each machine. Also, pincushions with plenty of pins at the pinning table.

IRON AND IRONING BOARD, especially helpful for the hot dog method.

FABRIC 100% cotton novelty for boys and girls ages 2-17. Preferably not flannel.

VOLUNTEERS will be needed at each machine, at the ironing board, at the pinning table, hanging pillowcases, and for generally directing traffic.

CLOTHES LINE AND CLOTHES PINS are a fun way to display completed pillowcases. This is a great motivator. Take PICTURES of all the wonderful SMILES created!

If there is downtime while students are waiting for a machine to become available there can be a station set up with card making supplies. They can make cards that will eventually go in with the cases. Get well or thinking of you type cards are very much appreciated. A simple index card or business card works fine.

Before the pillowcases can be delivered to the hospitals they have to be washed, ironed, and put into Ziploc bags (quart size). Non-sewing volunteers often want to help with this step. If no one is available, we have people to help. Please DO NOT use overly fragrant detergent or fabric softener; it’s best to use UNSCENTED DETERGENT and NO Fabric Softener or Dryer Sheets.

It's always a little chaotic at the start of each sewing session. Once the students get the hang of it they will want to sew on their own. Many kids want to make more than one pillowcase. It gets easier with each one!